The value of virtual reality in workplace training

Whatever your current thoughts might be towards VR, there’s no denying that the next twelve months will be key for the technology. It’s predicted that virtual reality will have its first billion dollar year in 2016, with at least half a million mobile VR units likely to be sold.

These figures are hard to argue with – making it clear that virtual reality can no longer be dismissed as a fad. Industries embracing the technology include the military, film, construction and a whole host of others bringing it into the workplace. Why?

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What companies want is value – and there’s plenty of value that VR can bring to the workplace, across a wide variety of industries.

Crucially, VR offers next generation training that makes experiences active and engaging, rather than passive and one-dimensional. Many educators believe it impossible to truly learn or understand something without an experience, and VR makes experience and practice central to learning. For Generation Y and Millennials learners accustomed to life via mobile phone or tablet, it’s perfect – and likely to get employees much more excited than if they were asked to read a book and take a test.

Calculating ROI

Effective training means highly competitive ROI.

It’s easy to quantify the return on investment of VR training before you invest. Military leaders and others are saving millions in live training expenses and infrastructure using the tech.

To work out what you could save, calculate:

  • The cost of slowing down a production line to accommodate inexperienced workers for on-the-job training.
  • The cost of a human life in potentially life-threatening situations where a lack of appropriate training is dangerous.
  • The cost of taking employees out of their working environment for a training session, as well as the capital expenditure and travel costs associated with such training.

With the ability to train individuals at a time and place that suits everyone’s needs, VR cuts costs. What’s more, it offers critical training in a non-critical environment. This means employees can be fully trained in aspects of their roles that are dangerous, limiting the cost and risk of losing an employee through injury or death. For fields such as medicine, practical training without the risk of harming other human beings is invaluable. Medical training at Imperial College London and elsewhere is being transformed through the use of VR as a result.

Tailored environments and assets

Simulation-based medical learning is nothing new, with the likes of Sim One having been used since the 1960s. Respected studies show that simulation-based training is an incredibly effective way to deliver an unrivalled immersive learning experience – and with VR, every project is individually tailored, using the same powerful underlying tools to deliver a fully-customised experience each time. Real-time scenarios can be developed quickly, creating a true-to-life environment for teaching key skills, behaviours and responses. A great example is in the world of baseball, where Major League teams practise in virtual batting cages, training in real game conditions to hit fast, accurate pitches.

It’s not just about training either. Materials and assets created for workplace training can be used in a multitude of other situations too: bringing concepts to life before they physically exist, improving compliance and communication, and enabling ideas to be visualised and shared across large workforces. Ford, for example, use VR to build prototype vehicles for employees can explore in minute detail, offering feedback before a “real” prototype is produced.

Reaping the benefits

The key benefits of VR training are clear:

Efficiency

The first is efficiency: by simulating real-life situations, a company can ensure that its employees are fully trained before they begin real-life operations. The need for additional on-the-job training is reduced and the likelihood of greater efficiency is there from the start.

Effectiveness

Numerous studies prove that VR training offers increased effectiveness over alternative, traditional training methods. “Pretending to do something is a powerful way to educate and create realistic memories”.

Time saving

Such training can also save time: not just by allowing learners to self-direct their training at their own pace, but also in other aspects of the business environment. In the welding industry firms are using VR to screen job applicants, as well as to enhance traditional training methods.

Critical training

Providing critical training in a non-critical environment is a key benefit in dangerous industries such as the military and medicine. In Arizona, for example, the Sheriff’s Department uses VR to simulate a range of scenarios including factory burglaries, suspicious behaviour and other hostile environments.

The value of VR for workplace training is clear: it’s a solution that can be used across an entire organisation, regardless of geography, tailored closely to the needs of a business, team or individual. It isn’t just a short-term fad: it’s a novel and effective solution with the ability to revolutionise the world of workplace training.

To find out more about VR for workplace training, read our Air France case study.